Thursday, May 21, 2009

Grizzly Bear

Along with Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion, Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest has been one of the most anticipated albums of the year. And like Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear's new album has an esoteric title. While Merriweather Post Pavilion takes its name from the Maryland amphitheater where I see Wilco in the summertime, Veckatimest is a small uninhabited island off the coast of Massachusetts.

Grizzly Bear's music is minimalist but intricate, and characterized by gorgeous, sometimes haunting chamber harmonies. On some songs the vocals really soar, and their unaffected, almost old-fashioned singing style makes them stand out from other groups.

In the following clip, the band performs standout track "Knife" from their album Yellow House. The song has a retro feel with a dark underlying harmony that can get stuck in your head all day. It sounds like post-apocalyptic doo-wop. And you have to appreciate how they're having fun performing with their best Super Mario mustaches.

Here are some tracks from the new album:
"Two Weeks", an upbeat song that shows off the group's brighter side

"While You Wait For The Others"

Grizzly Bear's new album Veckatimest comes out May 26.

Grizzly Bear- Live on KEXP, featuring a beautiful, nearly a cappella version of "Knife"

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Valley Winter Song

Snow in Central Park
Credit: New York Times

Living in Southern California, it's easy to lose track of the seasons when it's warm and sunny most every day. I'll admit- so far it's pretty great to have consistently pleasant weather, but having grown up in Virginia it feels like something is lost by not going through the natural cycle of life, death, and rebirth like other parts of the country. When almost every day is the same, time seems to stand still. The changing of seasons is a nice reminder that time is passing, and it's hard to feel that when the weather forecast seems pulled out of Groundhog Day.

LA does have seasons- the differences between them are just less extreme. And the shorter days with less sunlight make it clear that this is not summertime. Winter is the rainy season- which was reassuring to find out, because since I moved last summer, the first time it really rained was in November.

But though the calendar has changed to March, winter isn't over just yet, as most of the East Coast is covered in snow. While I don't miss de-icing my car, there are times when I could go for a crisp, wintry day. For me, "Valley Winter Song" by Fountains of Wayne captures that nostalgia. Along with 'No Better Place', it's one of the standout tracks from their otherwise-unremarkable album Welcome Interstate Managers. Last year LL Bean used the song perfectly for its holiday commercial:

Here's a full version of the song. Wherever you are, you can close your eyes and find yourself in a New England winter.

Valley Winter Song - Fountains of Wayne